Queer|Art, the New York–based nonprofit established in 2009 to support the LGBTQ community, has teamed up with HBO to launch its first annual Queer|Art|Prize. Photographer Catherine Opie and multimedia artist Reina Gossett were recognized for their work addressing queer culture at a ceremony at Manhattan’s Hudson Mercantile on Thursday night. Both artists will receive $10,000.
Opie was honored with a Sustained Achievement award. Born in Sandusky, Ohio, in 1961, Opie uses her practice to explore the many facets of queer American identity and community. After receiving the prize, she addressed the crowd, saying, “‘Sustainable achievement’ right now is an interesting thing to think about in our life. After thirty years of making work in relationship to my own identity as a lesbian, or radical dyke, so to speak, sustainable achievement should be thought about not in terms of myself as an artist, but what we all can do to sustain visibility within our own community.”
She continued, “We’ve had a horrendous year of Trump and his administration—we are looking at more hate crimes than we would’ve imagined we would witness right after getting the right to get married, and some sense of equality. When I think about Sustainable Achievement, I think, ‘It’s great, I’ve worked really hard, I’ve achieved, and I’m glad I’m being recognized for it,’ but then I also feel that our work isn’t done whatsoever . . . I want to raise a glass for us to continue to sustain the ability to have visibility within our communities, for us to teach our teenagers that it’s safe to come out, for us to work together not only as artists but as activists to continue in this movement that we all gathered for in the beginning of the AIDS crisis and that we need to carry forward.”
Gossett won the Recent Work award. She was selected for her animated short film The Personal Things, 2016, a tribute to trans activist Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, which was released on Trans Day of Resilience/Remember. Finalists for the Recent Work award, honoring specific projects made or debuted since the beginning of 2016, included Yance Ford for his documentary film Strong Island, 2017; photographer and House of LaBeija dancer Kia LaBeija for her Self Portraits, 2016–17; and Sarah Schulman for her 2016 book Conflict Is Not Abuse.
While onstage at the ceremony, Gossett said, “Queer art to me is about really centering the people and the voices that are most vulnerable, the people who history often forgets. Whenever we get a chance to say, ‘Actually, your voice matters—actually, not only does your voice matter, but you’re part of the reason why we’re here today looking so fabulous’—that is a thing to celebrate.”